Daily Maverick Marikana

Marikana: Social scientists seek understanding and demand justice

Daily Maverick, 18 September 2012

As optimism grew on Monday for a breakthrough in wage negotiations between striking workers and Lonmin management, it also became increasingly clear that the legacy of Marikana, the imprint of the violence and the brutal role of the police would outlive the strike itself. Furthermore, a group of social scientists is calling for the killings to be probed, so that justice – whatever course may need to take – can be meted out. 

As the country continues to grapple with what happened in Marikana on August 16, and the miners’ parlous living conditions that those killings forced into the open, many continue to question why the rest of the country was blind to the brewing discontent in the mines, why nobody predicted it and why government was aloof to it.

Few could have predicted the scale of the violence and the absolute show of force by the state. But even as the shock wears off, the sheer force of will of the miners, and their readiness to bite the bullet until their demands are met, continues to amaze people.

Elias Pholosi, a sales executive from Johannesburg who frequently visits relatives in Marikana, told Daily Maverick that as far back as a year ago, he could sense trouble brewing in the small mining town. “When you are driving around there, you see all these squatter camps. Coming up, you see corrugated iron, you see the world-class platinum mines… and when miners put the television on, they see the value of what they are mining – I felt that something would [certainly] happen one day,” he said. “Here is an area that there is a lot of money from the mines. Why doesn’t the company contribute to the infrastructure of the place? It is basic logic that you would want your workers to sleep well so they can perform well at work. Why don’t they improve their life?”

Pholosi’s sense of Marikana is informed by his 12-year old granddaughter and her family, who live on the periphery of Lonmin’s smelting plant. He speaks of the impact of the strike on their daily life, the disruption to the family’s business and his granddaughter’s battle to attend school in Rustenburg as tensions in the community peaked last month. But if Pholosi, as an everyman, could see the unrest brewing in the aftermath of the first killings, one can surely expect a more complex analysis from social scientists.

“As social scientists, we also respond to what has happened in a particular way,” reads a statement released by a group of South Africa’s respected social scientists. The group, which is not formally affiliated but chose to release a collective statement, includes Professor Freek Cronje, president of the South African Sociological Association; Professor Michael Burawoy, president of the International Sociological Association; Professor Adam Habib, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg; Professor Peter Alexander of the University of Johannesburg, who first alerted the country to the killing fields of Small Koppie; and Professor Ari Sitas of the University of Cape Town.

“Through our research and teaching, we aim to contribute to an examination of social structures, social processes and social context, making sense of these historically and with awareness that they have political significance,” the statement reads. “Our research aims to reveal phenomena that are hidden, rather than rely on reports of what is immediately visible.

“As social scientists, we have a normative concern with defending truth, justice and democracy,” it continues.

The statement is an invocation to understand what actually happened in Marikana that robbed people of their lives, but it also expresses a position: one that seeks redress for the victims and their families.

“We recognise that [Marikana] is a turning point in South African history,” Peter Alexander explains.

“It’s an event that has captured everything that has been slowly sizzling beneath the surface of the country,” Ari Sitas agrees.

For Alexander, it is crucial that discussions of Marikana are steered towards understanding the underlying conditions of workers and recognising as well that those conditions are not unique to Marikana, or the platinum belt. “We think it’s important to develop discussion of the continued legacy of the Apartheid past as revealed in Marikana,” he says. “It has revealed that a lot has been done, but a lot has not been done; and we need that to inform people’s understanding of what happened.”

Sitas explains Marikana, the massacre and the shadow it has cast over South Africa as the ultimate demonstration of South Africa’s contradictions. “It captured the tensions of the country, tensions without solutions, tensions that were not supposed to have occurred considering our constitution and our labour relations framework.

“We were not supposed to shoot striking people,” Sitas says.

The statement, Alexander explains, is an acceptance of responsibility from social scientists to overlook the investigations and the ensuing debates – with the potential to learn something valuable from the analysis for future reference. But, he warns, social scientists are not a solution in themselves. “It doesn’t mean we have all the answers,” he says.

“As civil society we need to push for the truth,” Sitas adds. “It is shocking, and these kind of shocks need to be addressed. What we need is to put the brakes on what is going on.” DM

Daily Maverick Marikana

In embracing Marikana, the SACC revitalises itself

SA’s beleaguered government continues its security crackdown in Marikana, with the South African National Defence Force announcing that it deployed 1,000 soldiers to the restive mining town in the North West. But even as President Zuma attempted – not very successfully – to allay fears about government’s respect for civil liberties, it was the South African Council of Churches on the ground at Marikana, helping workers apply for permission to march.

“It seems as if both government and Lonmin misread the situation on the platinum belt, and now what seemed resolvable might become an untenable situation,” Bishop Jo Seoka, president of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) said in a statement released by the Bench Marks Foundation on Saturday. Against the backdrop of teargas, rubber bullets and a noxious cocktail of fear and hatred among striking workers and residents in Marikana, Sekoa’s warning of an “untenable situation” was further strengthened by confirmation from the South African National Defence Force that troops had indeed been deployed to Marikana.

“The soldiers were deployed at the request of the police to support them in their operation,” SANDF spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga is reported by Sapa to have said. According to Mabanga, the soldiers in Marikana hail from the air force, the army and the military health services. And as South Africans react with alarm to the scale of the security presence in Marikana, Sekoa believes the government’s most recent attempts to assert control over the striking workers threatens the gains made in negotiations.

“I am concerned that all the hard work around the peace accord, the negotiations with Lonmin and the rock drillers, where we were making a lot of progress, might now come to an abrupt end,” he said. According to him, the reaction of both government and Lonmin has been hampered by a lack of understanding of the underlying problem.

“Workers, whether in Lonmin or Amplats, have legitimate grievances – grievances that go back years – that have now come to the surface. I know that it is not instigators that are driving the work stoppages, but genuine issues of absolute poverty, lack of respect for workers in the economy and how they contribute to the overall development of the country,” Sekoa said.

Sekoa is also chairperson of the Bench Marks Foundation, but it is in his role as president of the SACC that he has come to the fore in Marikana. And yet just a few months ago, detractors from within the SACC had predicted the untimely demise of the organisation. It is exactly this sort of critical take on Marikana, which the SACC has taken in recent weeks through Sekoa, that many predicted the organisation was no longer capable of. In March this year, dissidents within the organisation told the Mail & Guardian that the organisation’s “strategic capability to be critical has been depleted”. According to these disgruntled insiders, the SACC no longer enjoyed political leverage and had little influence over the president.

And as calls for urgent funding fell on deaf ears and the organisation’s financial woes continued to worsen, provincial and national staff members of the SACC rejected a mass retrenchment proposal by its national executive committee. Speaking to Daily Maverick on Sunday evening, Rev. Mautji Pataki, General Secretary of the SACC, refused to comment on the health of the organisation’s finances or the current standing of the impasse between SACC staff and the organisation’s leadership over the retrenchment packages. Indeed, complaints regarding the SACC leadership raised by its staff are remarkably similar to grievances of striking miners in Marikana against the National Union of Mineworkers.

In a statement released by SACC staff in July, it is claimed the “failure of the [SACC’s national executive committee] to consult the staff of the SACC [about retrenchment packages] is a symptom of individual interests, agendas and power struggles which contradicts the ethos of the SACC operating in a post-Apartheid, constitutionally democratic South Africa.”

Even though such criticism of the organisation is pervasive, the SACC is an organisation with a proud history. When it was formed in 1968, the organisation was meant to foster black leadership in Christian churches to promote the liberation struggle on religious and moral grounds. As the SACC grew, it was key to the revival of mass action against Apartheid in the 1980s. And from 1985, it was a vocal proponent of the campaign for sanctions against South Africa. Previous leaders of the SACC include luminaries like Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Rev. Frank Chikane and the late Beyers Naude. The organisation is still housed in Khotso House, which of course also housed Cosatu, among others.

Despite its links to the ANC, the organisation has however not been a praise singer for the ruling party. At various times the SACC has taken opposing stances to government. Notably, earlier this year the organisation met with Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe to voice their reservations on the controversial e-tolling proposal. “While the SACC accepted the rationale of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project as part of the strategy to decongest the roads, they expressed concerns at the state of public transport and urged government to take urgent steps to provide a reliable, efficient and quality public transport system,” the organisation said in a statement following the meeting.

But it is perhaps in Durban, in the aftermath of the Kennedy Road violence in 2009, that the SACC’s stance was most similar to the one they have adopted on the Marikana crisis of today. In September 2009, a group of 40 people is reported to have attacked a youth meeting of the shack dwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo. The attackers allegedly demolished residents’ homes and two people were killed in the ensuing violence. Suspicion was rife that the tragedy was perpetrated by ANC members and local police. And the SACC was scathing in its criticism.

“The Sydenham Police failed to provide the security that the people of Kennedy Road deserve,” Eddie Makue, former General Secretary of the SACC, said in a statement.

Fast-forward to Marikana, then, and an organisation under great strain from within has been resurgent, earning the trust of workers and mine management alike. It was the SACC who succeeded in brokering talks between Lonmin management and striking workers. The church organisation said its president, Bishop Jo Seoka, had persuaded Lonmin executives to finally meet striking miners in Marikana. “We received a mandate from workers that they were eager to meet management and we were able to speak to both management and workers,” Pataki explained.
“We started on the same day of the shootings,” Pataki said, denying strongly that it was the shootings that had taken the SACC to Marikana. He insisted it was co-incidental that the shootings occurred on the same day the SACC began working there. Pataki, however, rejects assertions that it is the SACC now representing workers’ demands in Marikana better than the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).  “They have just asked us to open the road for them,” he said.

Yet it is telling that mineworkers in Marikana have shown more trust in religious leaders in the guise of the SACC than they have in NUM. Pataki nonetheless believes it is the authority of the church that strengthens the legitimacy of SACC in Marikana. “We represent the church. We simply walked into Marikana, knowing nobody there, and people welcomed us,” Pataki said.

“Anybody who does not trust people of the church, well, I don’t know what you can say about them.” DM

Daily Maverick Marikana

Plotting SA’s post-Marikana scenarios: grim pictures dominate

Daily Maverick, 11 September 2012

I spoke to Kofi Kouakou, a scenario planner at the University of the Witwatersrand, about mapping future scenarios for the mining industry in South Africa, as well as the ripple effects of continuing standoff in Marikana on the rest of the country. The emerging picture is not pretty, with ramifications looming in other mines, other industries, and all the way to Mangaung. 

When Zhou Enlai, Premier of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to 1976, was asked about the historical impact of the French Revolution of 1789, he is said to have remarked, “It is too soon to say”.

After the killings of 34 mine workers by police on August 12 in Marikana, questions abound about what impact the massacre will have on the mining industry, the South African economy and the political playground. But we have no clear idea yet – and it’s likely we won’t for some time.

Even before Marikana, the state of the South African mining industry contrasted sharply to flourishing mining industries in the rest of the world. During the 2000s, investment in the mining industry in Australia is reported to have advanced by 24%, while in South Africa the average investment growth was 7%. The question, then, of how Marikana is likely to impact the trajectory of the mining industry here – and with it, the rest of the South African economy – cannot be dismissed. Mines employ some 500,000 workers directly, and a further 500,000 indirectly. The legacy of Marikana will be felt far beyond the platinum belt; and preparation for the change it may bring will be essential to government and the mining industry alike.

In our current state of affairs, we simply cannot afford to shrug and say we don’t know; there has to be some kind of strategic approach to our immediate future. As Lawrence Wilkinson of Global Business Network, a leading network of scenario planners, was quoted as saying by the South African presidency: “Scenario planning derives from the observation that, given the impossibility of knowing precisely how the future will play out, a good decision or strategy to adopt is one that plays out well across several possible futures.”

Kofi Kouakou, a scenario planner at the University of the Witwatersrand, says that in July already there was a sense of something insidious brewing in mining. “Already there was an eerie sense that something was about to happen, but people prefer to be positive so anything that’s bound to take place, if it’s a nasty thing they don’t want to hear it,” he told The Daily Maverick. So in the spirit of keeping eyes open wider in the future, here follows his take on the impact of Marikana.

Daily Maverick (DM): What are the possible scenarios for the industry, and the country, as the situation currently stands?

Kofi Kouakou (Kouakou): The key thing that emerged from the Mining Dialogues 360 in July was that the current impasse could be seen coming. Moreover, it was clear that the future of mining in South Africa, and across the continent, is social – which means if you don’t address social issues, the driving forces for tomorrow, there will be trouble. And if that happens then you’re moving to a “low road” or worst-case scenario.

DM: What is the worst-case scenario then?

Kouakou: Because of the nature of the poor social conditions that miners are living in and worst of all, the fact that 34 people were killed, waiting for four months to get a report back from government on what actually happened is a disaster. Everybody will be waiting to get the report and in that vacuum, someone will have to fill it for information and speculation. And that’s already happening. Everybody’s trying to speculate now. By the time that report comes out, it’s beyond Mangaung. It will be a worthless report – it will lose any sense of urgency.

People will be unhappy and it could lead to something worse – something I call ‘Marikana 2.0’ which means there will be a contagion of what is happening in Marikana. As much as we don’t see it yet, the potential for flaming is there. There will be more protests, more strikes. And if that happens, the consequences will be very bad again.

People are still trying to tone [Marikana] down but the underlying conditions are terrible. The people’s morale is down. And in the meantime the leadership vacuum is increasing.

DM: And the best-case scenario?

Kouakou: Lonmin will have to realise that they have to accede to the demands of the strikers. However, if they do that, they will be perceived to have given in and across the board, all across the industry, other miners may demand similar raises. And many people are not ready to give such raises, but Lonmin is not losing anything. If they give the raise, they calm people down. Obviously if this happens, the National Union of Mineworkers loses face because AMCU, who are not even a recognised union at Lonmin, would have outweighed them – and this could have effects on NUM within Cosatu and its alliance partners. Still, the best-case scenario would be for Lonmin to give the raises, calm the people down and control the contagion of the strike. The longer it goes on, the potential for escalation is greater, but Lonmin can afford this raise.

But also government, labourers and the industry have to come together to figure out a way to reduce most of these social ills [plaguing the communities] and not just talk about it, but pay people what they deserve. Workers don’t want the same salaries as executives, but they want at least to work in decent social conditions – decent housing, safe places to live with their families. This is the only “high-road” scenario. It is tied to the social conditions of the workers. So here, mining has a social future.

DM: What needs to change structurally to stop the spreading of the strike to other industries? 

Kouakou: The link between all these things brewing up is [the state of] social conditions. Being in the mining sector, or telecoms, or you have monopolies in the banking system, or in the transport sector with the possibility of e-tolling – people are just struggling, socially and economically. They are not making it. So even though all these sectors don’t appear linked when you have a burning fire in the mining sector and nobody is putting it out, it will spread, because the conditions there are present elsewhere. I think one sector that is about to flare up is energy, with increasing fuel prices, but I anticipate a riot against Eskom. It’s not a revolution, but there is a contagion that is going to balloon across the board.

DM: Is there any sense yet of which of the two scenarios we are about to see take place? 

Kouakou: We can already see that the low road scenario is plausible all the way through to the Mangaung conference.

DM: So Marikana is set to influence Manguang strongly?

Kouakou: I was in Mangaung a few weeks ago to look at the sign posts, to speak to people, to see how things are shaping up, and there’s an eerie feeling there that something big is going to happen. Posters have not been put up yet and people are going about their own business, but you know something big is going to happen. I don’t usually make predictions, but I predict [that] Jacob Zuma will not be re-elected as the ANC leader in Mangaung. DM


Daily Maverick Marikana

In Marikana, local government’s failures in plain sight

Daily Maverick, 10 September 2012

Small Koppie, the site where police are alleged to have shot and killed at least twenty people at close range on August 13, is currently under intense scrutiny. Researchers, human rights activists and journalists have all flocked there in a feverish attempt to piece together what actually happened. But Small Koppie, before it became the site of so much media attention, before it was the site of death, served a more basic function to the community from the nearby Wonderkop settlement – as an open-air latrine for residents without pit toilets near their shacks.

Outside the town of Marikana, residents of the informal settlement in Wonderkop, like residents of the other 15 settlements nearby, have no access to basic services – running water, electricity and refuse removal. The veld between Wonderkop and the koppie is strewn with rotting garbage and human faeces. It is not a pretty sight, yet the chimneys at Lonmin’s smelting plant puff away with mechanical regularity, betraying nothing of the human lives in the surrounds.

Still, even as Lonmin is lambasted for displaying inadequate corporate social responsibility to its workers, the local government has emerged, in conversation with residents, to be just as far removed from the grievances of Marikana residents.

“People feel their problems are not taken seriously by their councillors,” Eric Mokuoa, a community member from the LUKA environmental forum, told Daily Maverick. Residents in Marikana echoed his assessment.

One mineworker, who chose to remain anonymous, was standing in another garbage-littered veld closer to the Marikana town centre when we approached him. He perked up immediately at a question about life in the town. “In Marikana, the life is very bad,” he said animatedly, gesturing down the veld. “Here in my house, I have no lights, no water, nothing.

“We can’t come home after five o’clock because then it is too dangerous,” he added. “Our children are getting raped, our things are getting stolen, people are getting murdered.

“The police don’t help us, you know.”

Another mineworker, standing beside him, complained that the town clinic was only a day facility, and if children fell ill after dark, parents were forced to transport them to the nearest hospital in Rustenburg – a R500 taxi ride away. “There is not even an ambulance for us,” he said.

And while both men showed no hesitation in blaming Lonmin for a sizeable portion of their woes, they were equally scathing of the local government representation. “Our councillor, all the councillors here are corrupt,” one said. Residents complained that their councillors were deaf to their complaints; others complained that they did not even know how to reach their councillors.

This dissatisfaction with the local government is not a new, sudden development. It has existed as an undercurrent of life in Marikana for years. A 2010 study, “Mining and local economic development: a case study of the Rustenburg local municipality” by Mpho Brian Ndaba of Wits University reported that interviewees from Marikana “were dissatisfied and had no faith in the local municipality”.

“They perceive local municipal officials as not being effective in delivering essential public services.  They also perceive local government institutions to be administered by migrant workers that are not well acquainted with the needs and cultural values of the local population,” according to Ndaba.

“The Rustenburg municipality has been riddled with corruption for years,” Mokuoa explained to Daily Maverick, pointing out that the former mayor of the Rustenburg municipality, Matthew Wolmarans, was found guilty of the murder of local councillor Moss Phakoe in July. Shortly before he was murdered, Phakoe had handed a dossier detailing alleged corruption in the Rustenburg municipality to then co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Sicelo Shiceka.

“The arrest of the former mayor is related to corruption,” Mokuoa said. “It is linked to the challenges of service delivery in the municipality.”

The legacy of Wolmarans, however, still haunts the functions of the Rustenburg municipality. “The municipality is now focused on getting rid of corruption at the cost of (service) delivery,” Mokuoa said. Crucially, Mokua believes that while attention to the challenges of Marikana residents have come under due scrutiny in recent weeks, Marikana is not unique, and neither should it be the only area receiving this level of media attention. “It is not just in Marikana that people are struggling to engaging the mines and government about their problems,” he said.

In June this year, Auditor General Terence Nombembe bemoaned the lack of accountability in municipalities in the North West province, to which Rustenburg belongs, in his annual survey of the health of local government.  “These outcomes reflect a regression in the audit outcomes and an increase in financial statements not submitted for audit purposes,” Nombembe wrote. “Without a positive and committed reaction from mayors and councillors, opportunities to build a sustainable culture of accountability at municipal level remain limited.”

According to Ndaba, Lonmin’s engagement with the Marikana community is founded in a principle to provide support where government cannot supply assistance, but, he says, the company’s efforts are usually hampered by “political obstacles emanating from the public sector”. “Lonmin feels that mining companies should not take on the work of the public sector, but should support capacity building which will enable the government to meet its obligations,” Ndaba says.

In recent years, local government and Lonmin have ineffectually passed responsibility for living conditions of residents back and forth to each other, with no sustainable results.

According to The Rustenburg Report, compiled by Mokuoa with a group of community environmentalists and activists in 2011, local government and Lonmin have long jostled for responsibility for the living conditions of residents. A case in point: in 2008, Lonmin donated a high mast light to the Marikana West RDP housing settlement, but the mine did not properly transfer ownership of the light to the Marikana ward.

“When the light stopped working in 2009, the (Marikana ward) could not take responsibility for the light, as they said that this was not part of their assets,” reads The Rustenburg Report. “The community, before the installation of the lights, had problems of crime like house breaking, theft, rape cases and mugging of residents at night, but the problem is recurring since the light went off.”

And though this culture of shirking responsibility – passing the buck from government to Lonmin and back again – is dizzying, it is the feeling among residents that they actually have no say, no input into this exchange and how it is handled, that is the greatest failure of the local government.

The Local Government Municipal Systems Act of 2000 requires municipalities to “develop a culture of municipal governance that complements formal representative government with a system of participatory governance”. Public participation in government entails involving people in deciding their futures. And yet, in Marikana, as elsewhere in the platinum belt, and indeed elsewhere in the country, communities have become frustrated with the non-delivery local services and have resorted to protest.

Recent events in Marikana have showed up many of the fault lines of the country, but have also demonstrated most vociferously that government is out of touch with the concerns of voters. DM

*Efforts to reach communication officers for the Rustenburg Municipality as well as officials from the Marikana ward came to naught this weekend.